Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Churchill Downs Race Day Notes: Wednesday, Nov. 26


McPEEK TARGETS GOLDEN ROD, KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB SWEEP

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014) – One can reasonably expect the name of Kenny McPeek, a trainer who always has some very promising juveniles in his barn, to be tossed about frequently during the Fall Meet at Churchill Downs, a racing session well-known for being an early proving ground for 2-year-olds.


The 52-year-old Lexington native will take aim at both of the 1 1/16-mile major events on Saturday’s “Stars of Tomorrow II” program when he saddles Grayson Farm’s I’m A Chatterbox and Five D Thoroughbreds’ Kathballu in the $200,000-added Golden Rod Stakes (Grade II) for fillies, and Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Jumpin Frac Flash in the $200,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII).

McPeek has a good history in both races, having won the 2010 Golden Rod with Kathmanblu, a full sister to Kathballu, and he took the 2001 Kentucky Jockey Club with Repent.

He just missed winning another Golden Rod in 2001 with Take Charge Lady, one of the best horses he has trained. Take Charge Lady finished second to Belterra in the Golden Rod and returned the next year to be runner-up to Farda Amiga in the Kentucky Oaks. She also won Keeneland’s Spinster (GI) twice in a career during which she won 11 of 22 races, participated in three Breeders’ Cup events and earned $2,480,377.

Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia favors Kathballu a solid chance to emulate her sister. The daughter of Bluegrass Cat is the 6-1 third choice in a field of 12 entered on Wednesday to compete in the Golden Rod.

Kathballu finished sixth in her racing debut at Keeneland on Oct. 17, but returned at Churchill Downs with a head-turning maiden victory at the Golden Rod distance of 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 7.

I’m a Chatterbox is a 20-1 risk in Battaglia’s morning line following a third-place finish behind Golden Rod rival Simply Confection in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race on Nov. 9. But McPeek thinks that effort, in which the daughter of Munnings set the pace until just over a furlong remained, could be better than it might appear at first glance.

“She drew the one-hole in her last race and I think she was kind of compromised there,” McPeek said. “She had to kind of commit (to the lead), or else. I’m hoping she can get an outside trip (in the Golden Rod) and she can stalk a bit better. She worked really well this past week in preparation for it, so I think she’s in with a big chance.”

Jumpin Frac Flash drew the outside gate in a field of 12 for the Kentucky Jockey Club, and is rated a 15-1 shot following a five-length romp in a one-mile maiden race at Churchill Downs on Nov. 13. The win followed losses in a pair of starts at Keeneland, but he displayed significant improvement in a 1 1/16-mile outing in his second start an appeared to relish the two-turn distance.

The son Any Given Saturday is owned by Magic City Thoroughbreds, who also own Frac Daddy, who was the runner-up to Uncaptured in the 2012 Kentucky Jockey Club.

“His last race was real impressive and I think he wants two turns instead of the flat mile,” McPeek said. “He has worked well, too.”

Like all horses stabled at Churchill Downs, Kathballu, I’m a Chatterbox and Jumpin Frac Flash missed training time last week when an early winter blast resulted in a frozen track that resulted in the cancellation of two racing days and three training sessions before racing and training resumed on Friday. But that is not a major concern for McPeek heading into Saturday’s race.

“We got some really nice works in on Sunday,” he said. “We were able to gallop Saturday and work Sunday and none of them seems the worse for wear. Everybody else had to deal with it, too.”

HOWARD HOPES EAGLE WILL FLY IN SATURDAY’S KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB

It takes very few fingers to count the number of times friends of Churchill Downs-based trainer Neil Howard have seen him truly and outwardly excited.

For a guy who has the exploits of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft and a classic winner in 1990 Preakness victor Summer Squall on his résumé, Howard’s cautious manner belies his accomplishments. He went out on his own as a trainer in 1979, but his longtime nickname – “Nervous Neil” – still sticks.

So don’t expect a barrage of superlatives should you talk with Howard about the promise of William S. Farish’s homebred Eagle, a son of Candy Ride-ARG who has done enough in three races to merit a run in Saturday’s $200,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at 1 1/16-miles. The step into a stakes race is a big one, but Howard is looking forward to seeing what Eagle will do following a pair of wins in three career outings at Ellis Park, Churchill Downs and Keeneland.

The latter has been the biggest eye-catcher, so far. In his debut at two turns, Eagle won a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at the Lexington track by 1 ¾ lengths. His races have been well spaced and include a victory in his six-furlong debut on July 5 at Ellis and a runner-up finish at Churchill Downs’ one-turn mile in a Sept. 26 allowance race prior to his Keeneland win.

“He’s a lovely colt, and so far he’s been doing real well,” Howard said. “He had a little bit of growing up to do, but he made tremendous strides and I’ve been very pleased with him.”

Eagle is out of Sea Gull, a daughter of Mineshaft who is part of the talented broodmare band at Farish’s Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, Ky. The relationship between Howard and Lane’s End has been a long and successful one, with Mineshaft being the most successful result of an enduring partnership.

“I’m very fortunate that the majority of my work is under the auspices of Lane’s End,” Howard said. “The people at the farm that raised the colt always felt he had that something about him that maybe set him apart from the rest of the group. It’s never bad when you get one like that.

“He trained nicely right from the start, but he was a little bit ‘too much on his bicycle’ early on. But he’s settled down and he’s gotten better and better with everything that he does from each start.”

Howard will not have to wait long to see if Eagle continues that progression following his victory at Keeneland.

“I thought that was a turning point race,” Howard said. “The two turns suited him beautifully. He’s by Candy Ride out of a Mineshaft mare, so you would think that would be something you would be looking for.”

Brian Hernandez Jr. has been aboard Eagle in each of his races and will return to the saddle again in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Howard’s colt will break from post two in the full field of 12 juveniles and oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has installed Eagle as a 12-1 risk in his morning line odds.




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